Kendal Q. Binmore: A cacophony of silence: ground of the Triumvirate: 9. Micah 4:1-5 and fractured monotheism


9. Micah 4:1-5 and fractured monotheism


sentinels of difference

see no side

Benjamin Suzuki


           This critic prefers an unwieldy text, without internal claim of coherence, although this no protection from later claim of canon. Such is the Old Testament. And in that codification is a clear claim against canon, a forerunner of Cabrales’ fractured God. The minor prophet Micah, dated to the time of Isaiah (about 780-740 bce), holds no monotheism, embracing an ethnic exclusivity instead:


[Yahweh] will judge between many peoples

and arbitrate between mighty nations.

They will hammer their swords into ploughshares

and their spears into bill-hooks.

Nation will not lift sword against nation

or ever again be trained to make war.

But each man will sit under his vine and fig tree

with no one to trouble him.

The mouth of Yahweh Sabaoth has spoken.


For all peoples go forward, each in the name of its god

while we go forward in the name of Yahweh our God

for ever and ever. (Micah 4:3-5; all translations New Jerusalem Bible)


Yahweh is not universal, nor are other gods denied; rather, the role of Yahweh is parallel to that of the gods of other peoples. The text ends with a comparison of gods which would be blasphemous under strict monotheism:


What god can compare with you

for pardoning guilt

and for overlooking crime?

He does not harbor anger for ever,

since he delights in showing faithful love.

Once more have pity on us,

tread down our faults;

throw all our sins

to the bottom of the sea.

Grant Jacob your faithfulness,

and Abraham your faithful love,

as you swore to our ancestors

from the days of long ago. (Micah 7:18-20)


What god can compare with you: the superiority of Yahweh is one of place lived, the ethnic author bound to such praise, his only leverage cajoled alchemy of words past. The Testament chronicles the ethnic exclusivity of a Jewish god, not the singularity of God. Victories attributed to Yahweh may be linked to punishments undetailed by other ethnic gods. The innovation attributed to Torah is not monotheism but ethnic exclusivity, ethnicity over tribe, universal in minor key. Micah, ante, evaluates his god through the faithfulness of ancient promise to Abraham and Jacob; implicit is either a greater historical record among Jews or greater fidelity by the godhead–or both. This innovation of ethnic exclusivity, if real, is social-political: ethnic exclusivity permits organized rebellion while the incursion of alien gods divides loyalties. So the prophets of the Old Testament rail against the infiltration of idols in a successful State. The crown may welcome infiltration to disarm organized criticism of its political economic policies, criticism based on Torah; yet when the State falls, as all do, the wilderness prophets’ stock will rise, increasing their chances of textual preservation. In extremity, adherence to the Law creates a punishment mechanism policing the distribution of sparse social insurance among remnants. Social mechanisms built when the tribes of Israel were ascending (whatever that may mean) reclaim their function, perhaps more in the telling than in reality, during catastrophic decline; in both ascent and decline, jeopardy fuels punishment by the Law.


           Torah evidences the same ambiguity of ethnic godhead. Deuteronomy 32:8,9 parcels out something to each of the peoples, this parsing the very creation of ethnicity:


When the Most High gave the nations each their heritage,

when he partitioned out the human race,

he assigned the boundaries of nations

according to the number of the children of God

but Yahweh’s portion was his people,

Jacob was to be the measure of his inheritance.


Yahweh has a portion. The assignment of nations, their boundaries, is allotment among the children of God, including Yahweh. There are no nations without “the number of the children of God.” The nations are the partition; demography cannot partition, for it is derivative on the existence of nations. Ethnicity is an act of the “Most High”–and seems fixed for all time. Yahweh might be this “Most High,” reserving a portion for Himself; or Yahweh might be one of the “children of God” given an inheritance, just as the others. Deut. 32:12 suggests the latter:


Yahweh alone is [Jacob’s] guide;

no alien god for him.


Yahweh, assigned a people, is coequal with the children of God, similarly assigned each a people; another god is “alien,” not false, Jacob either loyal or captured. This stance is precisely that found in pre-Islamic Mecca, where each clan/ethnicity has its own deity, called a “daughter of God,” represented in Ka’ba, God itself seemingly monotheistic, but accessible only through its offspring deities, identical in structure to Deut 32:8,9 (ante).


           The text, focusing on the ethnic exclusivity of Yahweh, can elide Yahweh into the Most High. The origin of ethnicity is not exclusive–it cannot be. But divine punishment can be. We never hear of other gods because their bounty is mirrored in Yahweh’s punishment. The text of Deuteronomy 32 becomes incoherent without the god ethnicity of 32:8,9.


[Israel] has disowned the God who made [them],

and dishonored the Rock, [their] salvation,

whose jealousy they aroused with foreigners–

with things detestable they angered him.

They sacrificed to demons

who are not God,

to gods hitherto unknown to them,

to newcomers of yesterday

whom their ancestors had never respected.

(You forget the Rock who fathered you,

the God who made you,

you no longer remember.) (Deut. 32:15-18)


A demon, by virtue of not being Yahweh, yet not a fiction. A demon, a god to others, to foreigners, to other ethnicity, to newcomers of yesterday, encountered through the successes of Israel’s god. Yahweh “makes” his people through guidance (32:12, ante), through husbandry of his share of the partition. Ethnically exclusive divinity produces multiple, overlapping hells, demons aplenty for each unique god to contest. Hell is everywhere, we are all part of it–for someone else. A common view of humanity.


           Next a curious passage in which Yahweh stays the destruction of Israel out of fear of a boasting victor:


They have roused me to jealousy

with a non-god,

they have exasperated me with their idols,

In my turn I shall rouse them to jealousy

with a non-people

I shall exasperate them

with a stupid nation…

I should crush them to dust, I said,

I should wipe out all memory of them,

did I not fear the boasting of the enemy. (Deut 32:21 ,26-7)


A nation is a people by 32:8,9. Stupid or not, the non-people of 32:21 is a nation, so a people. Relief comes from 32:9–Yahweh’s portion was his people. God and people are linked. The “non-god” of 32:21 is a god, just not Israel’s god. Then the fear of Yahweh (a strange attribute for a monotheistic deity) is the boasting of Israel’s subjugator, diminishing the glory of Yahweh:


Do not let [Israel’s] foes be mistaken!

Do not let them say,

“We have got the upper hand

and Yahweh plays no part in this.”




How else could one man rout a thousand,

how could two put ten thousand to flight,

were it not that their Rock has sold them,

that Yahweh has delivered them up? (Deut 32:27, 30)


There are parallel zero-sum games between peoples and between their respective gods. For Israel to be destroyed diminishes Yahweh’s glory, presumably to the benefit of the victor’s god. Ethnic punishment is opportunity for foreign gods, and calculated risk for the punishing god. Boasting is glory, each god’s people its “measure,” (32:9, ante). Boasting warns the future, shuffles possibility among the various peoples partitioned by the Most High. The Old Testament’s incessant praise to Yahweh, his persistent, necessary glorification, is meaningful precisely because he is not omnipotent outside his assigned ethnicity. Glorification is alliance between people and god in unending struggle among peoples and gods. The Old Testament may be read as Yahweh’s unhappy binding with Israel, a switchback from emancipator to God of gods (as victor, see below) to conquered subject of Rome.


           Gods cannot interfere with their respective non-peoples, save by enhancing or diminishing their own, exclusive people.


their rock is not like our Rock;

our enemies cannot pray for us! (Deut 32:27, 30)


“Vengeance is mine, I will pay them back, for the time when they make a false step.”




“Where are their gods then?” he will ask,

“the rock where they sought refuge,

who ate the fat of their sacrifices

and drank the wine of their libation?”

Let these arise and help you,

let these be the shelter above you!

See now that I, I am he,

and beside me there is no other god. (Deut 32:35, 37-9)


Our enemies cannot pray for us: access to a god is ethnically restricted; sacrificing to a foreign god, idoled or not, is no more than worshiping the acts of men.


They bow down

before the work of their hands,

before what their own fingers

have made. (Isaiah 2:8)


Even if those fingers held only a pen. Idol is foremost a transgression against the partition of humanity at Deut 32:8,9, ante. Within Judaism idols are supplanted by the invisibility of words. But to speak falsely of Yahweh is equally idolatrous. The Judaic uniqueness of Yahweh makes all else vacuous idol. An Israeli confronts an idol where one of the “idol”s ethnicity does not. Beside me there is no other god: true as well for each god of each respective people. Beside me there is no other god expands across the original partition through warfare.


I raise my hand to heaven

and I say, “As surely as I live for ever,

when I have whetted my flashing sword,

I shall enforce justice,

I shall return vengeance to my foes,

I shall take vengeance on my foes,

I shall make my arrows drunk with blood,

and my sword will feed on flesh:

the blood of the wounded

And the prisoners,

the disheveled heads of the enemy!”


Heavens, rejoice with him [Yahweh],

let all the children of God pay him homage!

Nations, rejoice with his people,

let God’s envoys tell of his power! (Deut 32:40-43)


Let all the children of God pay him homage: ethnic exclusivity becomes regional monotheism through conquest, but not a monotheism of universal access. The other gods are latent, as is Yahweh during the Babylonian exile. Yet with empire comes plea for assimilation by the conquered, an unanticipated, unwanted quickening toward universalism:


“The God of gods, Yahweh, the God of gods, Yahweh, well knows and let Israel know it too: if there has been rebellion or infidelity to Yahweh on our part, may He refuse to save us today! And if we have built ourselves an alter with the intention of repudiating our allegiance to Yahweh and of presenting burnt offering and oblation or of offering communion sacrifices on it, may Yahweh Himself call us to account for it! The truth is, we have done this as a precaution: in the future, your descendants might say to ours, ‘What connection do you have with Yahweh, God of Israel? Has not Yahweh set the frontier of the Jordan between us and you…? You have no share in Yahweh.’ Thus, your descendants would be the cause of stopping ours from fearing Yahweh.


So we said to each other, ‘Let us build this alter, not for burnt offerings or other sacrifices but as a witness between us and you and between our descendants after us, attesting that we too have the right to worship Yahweh, in his presence, with our burnt offerings, our victims and our communion sacrifices.’ …Far be it from us to rebel against Yahweh or now to repudiate our allegiance to Yahweh by building an altar for burnt offerings or oblations or sacrifices, in rivalry with the alter of Yahweh our God that stands before his Dwelling [the Ark of the Covenant].” (Joshua 22:22-7, 29)


Of course, it is a rivalry, an independent seat for Yahweh, an incipient pluralism within monotheism, breaking ethnicity, slight step toward universalism. God of gods: his people defeated, some other god, some child of God, pays homage to Yahweh (Deut 32:43, ante), his nation rejoicing with Yahweh’s (ibid); as his people turn toward Yahweh, some child of God faces the extinction of silence. An extinction which expands, on the margin, the peace of a god, peace the removal of contention among gods, peace within the nation as well as among nations:


The priest [of Israel] said to [them], “Today we can see that Yahweh is among us, since you have not been unfaithful to Yahweh in this matter [building an alter]; this means that you have spared the Israelites from Yahweh’s avenging hand.” (Joshua 22:31)


The impiety of the conquered can endanger Israel. So the curse of destruction to preserve ethnic exclusivity:


as regards the towns of those peoples [near you] whom Yahweh your God is giving you as your heritage, you must not spare the life of any living thing…so that they may not teach you to do all the detestable things which they do to honor their gods: in doing these, you would sin against Yahweh your God. (Deut 20:16, 18)


The destruction of another’s heritage becomes one’s heritage; pogrom defines nationhood. Impiety is not a function of false inclusion but territory, impiety is territorial overlap, piety territorial exclusivity, a contest for glory where the fate of people is quite secondary. Glory is unique, exclusive worship. Read this way, Joshua 22:22-29 breaks Deut. 20:16,18,a first step toward universalism in Judeo-Christian tradition.


           These divine contests for glory akin to genocide and ethnic cleansing are inherently zero sum. Viewed from the partitioning of the Most High (Deut 32:8,9, ante), the children of God are a fracturing of divinity, shadowing one another in success or failure. Finite life always makes a contest; heavens may praise a victory (Deut 32:43), but the game goes on. Joshua 22:22-9 in potential removes the contest from the children of God. Fracturing Yahweh, two alters, one outside Israel, the game of unending destruction might be escaped. Yahweh is known through his exclusion of rivals. Remove these and his character dissipates; an amorphous God results. Fractured by alters of worship, this god differentiates. Space makes the victor multiple, birthing rivals in potential, god doomed to enact the stories of his people.


           Cabrales made this process of differentiation God, creating an identity with separateness among the alters of the world. The game of glory is replaced by a game of unending divergent articulation. Content cannot be worshiped, as it is static; process is that which will assuredly be. The price of this view is acceptance of the perpetrators of 9-11 as fellow travelers; but, then, so Gandhi as well, a man of equally fearful tendencies for many. God everywhere is not God here. Singularity, apocalypse are impossible, 9-11 ungrounded as endurable expression of divinity. Of course, that didn’t stop it from happening.


           Now I approach Micah 4:3-5 again, its first reading having colored the terrain in which that author walked, his words illuminating paths obscure before he wrote. The Torah of Israel proper begins conceptually with a fracturing of humanity, the children of God (inversely) correlated champion/masters of their respective charges. Inversely correlated, a world of evolutionary spite, where to win is simply to be better than others, a little taller even as all sink in quicksand. If we may believe Torah, genocide is a most effective surety of survival, the victor perhaps emaciated, yet able to grow unhampered in the cleared space. Lebensraum, unavoidable life.


           The staying of genocide by a foreign hand is unique to the human species, rarer than religion therein, Torah shows us that, more than justice among neighbors, Torah shows us that; the staying of genocide by a foreign hand is justice among strangers, justice released from any single view of the world. Intervention without personal cause, intervention for its own sake, sustained for reasons unfathomable to the suffering, miraculous in that theater of our beginnings, hand of God, process beyond each of us. Justice become natural right, natural because beyond our defense, natural because always, always someone else must come. This the trick of American Federalism after Arms, to make strangers, purportedly in their self interest, articulate the rights of strangers. Vermont tells Texas what to do, the miracle of intervention made perpetual. Let self interest make, but transport the made elsewhere. This transport elsewhere, we shall see, is in Cabrales’ A Dios as well.


           Such justice is foreshadowed in Micah 4:3-5. Unlike Joshua 22:22-7, ante, Micah envisions Yahweh as originator but not controller:


…peoples will stream to it,

many nations will come and say,

“Come, we will go up

to Yahweh’s mountain,

to the Temple of the God of Jacob,

so that he may teach us his ways

and we may walk in his paths”;

…He will judge between many peoples

and arbitrate between mighty nations.

…Nation will not lift sword against nation

or ever again be trained to make war.

…For all peoples go forward,

each in the name of its god,

while we go forward in the name

of Yahweh our God

for ever and ever. (Micah 4:2, 3, 5)


The stance is Quranic (Trespass into Islam, below). Quranic, but more liberal than in that book as usually exposited. Yahweh, god of the dispersed, god of exiles, intervenes, and the game that all of the children of God have been playing, including blood lusty Yahweh, is abandoned. The stance is orthodox Christian (not Pauline), brutal covenant abandoned for common improvement in peace. Changed by the scattering of his people, forced to travel, to be their distanced connection as a people, Yahweh has found glory without genocide, triumph without slaughter. Connection itself has become triumph, transport of aid a miracle to the distressed; endurance, for this moment, moment all we ever have, need not be through the expense of foreign others. Civilization grows and, most strangely, no one dies. Walking the path of Yahweh, path of scattering with perpetual miracle of momentary partial regathering, the children of God no longer need endure the fitful complementary cycle of triumph to enfeebled despair. Scattering to momentary regathering, fusion too brief for nationhood: this becomes marvelous redefinition of humanity. Yahweh, having lost all territory, having lost the game, nonetheless avoids genocide by living in the commerce of its conqueror; and, once conquered, there are always many conquerors. A people with inflicted common badge, linking across horizons, useful to nations still drunk on territory. Useful to peoples still in the glory game of the Most High (Deut 32:8, ante), Yahweh breaks that game–son besting creator. At Micah 4:5 the children of God abandon the Most High. Civilization changes form.


           And canon breaks. There are many gods. Having walked with Yahweh on the path beyond territory, they are no longer non-gods. Canons are no longer necessarily mutually hostile, growth no longer zero sum. Still gods of other peoples, the possibility of borrowings across canons emerges. One god for each, many canons, borrowings across canons, one god affecting another absent obliteration. Then one god for each, diverse text in one god. Diverse text inherited diversely fractures the god. Then one god for each, gods variously fractured. Labels remain distinct, but correlation by ethnicity dims. Alien god little different than god of common ancestor, each god monotheistic yet rarely identical. We arrive at Cabrales’ fractured monotheism.


           All from five verses of a minor prophet! The short book of Micah is devoted to Israel save for the universalist 4:1-5. 4:1-3 is virtually identical to Isaiah 2:2-4, there as equally out of place. When third Isaiah addresses foreigners there is no talk of other gods; rather, the Deuteronomic connection between a god and people is broken against Micah 4:5.


No foreigner adhering to Yahweh should say,

“Yahweh will utterly exclude me from his people.”


who adhere to Yahweh to serve him,

to love Yahweh’s name

And become his servants,

all who observe the Sabbath,

not profaning it,

and cling to my covenant:

these I shall lead to my holy mountain

and make them joyful

in my house of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices

will be accepted on my alter,

for my house will be called

a house of prayer for all peoples.


Lord Yahweh

who gathers the exiles of Israel declares:

There are others I shall gather

besides those already gathered. (Isaiah 56:3, 6-8)


Here precursor to Pauline universalism without Christ, without change of the covenant of brutality. Isaiah 2:2-4 (Micah 4:1-3) declares a universalism perhaps without monotheism, against the Deuteronomist(s), against Micah 4:5. Third Isaiah (Isaiah 56-66) writes after return from exile; the reterritorialization of Israel transforms an unavoidable exile tolerance of other gods into universalism across peoples. No alien god will do to Israel what Yahweh did to Babylon. Gods impotent within Israel are primed for global castration; one step further, monotheism awaits.


           Omnipotence is made in exile. The Deuteronomist called for genocide to protect the faith (Deut 20:16-8, ante). Jeremiah, writing as the Babylonian exile begins, admonishes Israel to faith by declaring Yahweh the Most High:


Do not learn the ways of the nations

or take alarm at the heavenly signs,

alarmed though the nations may be at them.

Yes, the customs of the peoples

are quite futile:

wood, nothing more, cut out of a forest,

worked with a blade by a carver’s hand,

…Have no fear of them: they can do no harm

–nor any good either!

…the Futile One’s teaching is but wood

…but Yahweh is the true God.

He is the living God,

the everlasting King.

The earth quakes when he is wrathful,

the nations cannot endure his fury.


Tell them this, “The gods who did

not make the heavens and the earth

will vanish from the earth and

from the heavens.”


By his power he made the earth,

by his wisdom set the world firm,

by his discernment

spread out the heavens.

When he thunders

there is a roaring of waters in heaven;

…at this all people stand stupefied,


every goldsmith blushes for his idols;

his castings are but delusion,

with no breath in them.

They are futile, a laughable production;

when the time comes

for them to be punished,

they will vanish.

The Heritage of Jacob is not like these,

for he is the maker of everything,

and Israel is the tribe that is his heritage.

His name is Yahweh Sabaoth. (Jeremiah 10:2, 3, 5, 10-16)


Heritage is reciprocal, god to people, people to god, as at Deut 32:8,9. But there is no contest in Jeremiah; Yahweh, Most High of Genesis, will liquidate all alien. In extremity the grandest claims are made, conduits across isles of desperation, badge allocating what morsels remain. In extremity: Jeremiah speaks to a marginal elite in Israel (Judea), those not invested in the collapsing royal states, authority from the word of Yahweh, words a resource difficult for royalty to contain; authority from the elusive power of trade. Such ethnic purity to Yahweh extends similarly pure representatives to deal in foreign goods. With the fall of those linked to a crushed royalty, the Jeremiah elite is no longer marginal. Now a major remnant, familiar with retaining long distance religious integrity in mercantile life, they are primed to offer conceptual coherence and ethnic survival during the Babylonian dispersal–that and secured trade service to the destroyer.


           The customs of the peoples are quite futile (Jeremiah 10:3, ante): a terrible thing to tell the world, that all those heritages, all those fathers and mothers, lived lies unknown, unknown small compromise for all that hope foregone before it ever was. From fellow contestant to futile fool. It happened incrementally, first castration of the gods an attempt to redirect Israel to Yahweh:


Ahab called all Israel together and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah stepped out in front of all the people. “How long,” he said, “do you mean to hobble first on one leg then on the other? If Yahweh is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him…call on the name of your god, and I shall call on the name of Yahweh; the god who answers with fire, is God indeed.” … “Oh Baal, answer us!” [the prophets] cried, but there was no voice, no answer, as they performed their hobbling dance round the alter which they had made. Midday came, and Elijah mocked them: “Call louder,” he said, “for he is a god: he is preoccupied or he is busy, or he has gone on a journey; perhaps he is asleep and needs to be woken up!” So they shouted louder and gashed themselves, as that custom was, with swords and spears until the blood flowed down them. Midday passed, and they ranted on until the time when the offering is presented; but there was no voice, no answer, no sign of attention. (I Kings 18:20, 21, 26-29)


Unlike the prophets of Baal, Elijah directs the people of Israel assembled to prepare an alter for Yahweh. Then


Elijah stepped forward. “Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, “ he said, “let them know today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant, that I have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Yahweh, answer me, so that this people may know that you, Yahweh, are God and are winning back their hearts.”


Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering… When all the people saw this they fell on their faces. “Yahweh is God,” they cried, “Yahweh is God!” Elijah said, “Seize the prophets of Baal: do not let one of them escape.” They seized them, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon, and there he slaughtered them. (I Kings 18:36-40)


The account conforms to the Deuteronomist; within Israel, the prophets of Baal (themselves Israelis) have no god. Israel, as a nation, performs the rite recalling Yahweh. Through this rite the Israeli prophets of Baal are stripped of their nation, outcasts to be slaughtered; Mohammad too will be stripped of his clan for foreign prophecy. The elide to Jeremiah (ante) is the impotence of all gods beyond the territory of Israel at a time when national territory is extinguished. 1 Kings retains the territorial exclusivity of Deuteronomy, but not the contest of peoples of Deut 32:21, 26-7; the contest is solely within Israel, the prophets made a non-people through their failure. Later, as Jerusalem topples, the territory of Israel sundered, Jeremiah faces prophet against prophet, god against Yahweh, with no nation of Israel surround. Yahweh, released from territory, need must trump all gods at all places, Yahweh Most High.


           Yet a God of diaspora, not humanity. With the return, Israel once again becomes a nation of territory–but the Deuteronomic context of peoples is gone. Babylon has fallen to Persia, Persia returning the Babylonian Jewish diaspora, protecting all nations. The Deuteronomic contest is forbidden; but contest in trade and influence flourishes. Micah 4:1-3 (Isaiah 2:2-4) is recognition that the trade ways of exile are now to great degree the ways of all nations under Persian domination. Third Isaiah (Isaiah 56, ante) makes Jerusalem/Israel a trade hub for all nations in the region, declaring an implicit monotheism to that end:


Lord Yahweh

who gathers the exiles of Israel declares:

There are others I shall gather

besides those already gathered. (Isaiah 56:8)


Micah 4:4-5 is pastoral, not cosmopolitan:


But each man will sit under his vine and fig tree

with no one to trouble him.

… For all peoples go forward,

each in the name of its god,

while we go forward in the name

of Yahweh our God.


The exclusionist pluralism of Micah echoes Deut 32:8, 9, ante, without attached zero-summed success. Isaiah 56 abandons the Deuteronomist’s hard compromise of unending violent contest through alternative trope. Third Isaiah portends the monotheism of Apocalypse, of Church Catholic, of Islam, of each Protestant sect encompassing simultaneously all creation. One single verse of Micah, perhaps added to the text after return, suggests an antithesis to final victory, suggests Cabrales’ fractured monotheism. The exclusion which never leaves our kind, bane fought by Christ and Allah, tool of ancient genocide, becomes, for Cabrales, hope, hope against 9-11.


           Exclusion buttresses against entropy, against not just social chaos but the attrition of articulated resolve, against the brute grunting of momentary satisfaction leaving all else undone. Exclusion, feared non-existence, punishment of silence which conforms with comfort, essential social brutality from which all else rises. Our Maker in this world, a power which singes the near touch. Inescapable, so jump away to be caught in its embrace elsewhere–such is A Dios. To God, not from God; there is no from God, yet God is, finitely, exclusion. To be is to be finite, God incarnate truncated, torn, so inherently evil (ante). Evil no anathema, just common breath, flowing out one, into another, breath of God perpetually creating Adam, breath sucked from one to make another. Thus the compassion of Cabrales’ God: pulling Itself from Itself, walking away from Itself, in the disjoining freedom from the necessity of being to the exclusion of others. Freedom from the finite struggle for life–only to be rejoined in a new mix, God anew, wailing at the exclusion made of past forms, denying what It was to be in some now. Wailing God, send us Your Son again, for Your sake, for our sake, it is so hard to hear Being wail, send Your Son to sever Yourself a moment, to bring the silence which is hope.


           Ah, remember Mitland, non-believer who consequently has less to say, shortscrifted in this grand exposition of God? Remember his African god of all perspectives, insane, wailing in the unavoidable inconsistency of all lives, rushing from us, pleading that we avoid godhead, knowing we will chase? In Cabrales we have finite God who wails as well. No surprise: both confront the reality of exclusion for life lived. Only apocalypse can give relief. Sympathy for the perpetrators of 9-11: they sought relief for God. But failed. Singularity such as theirs is nothing more than God come again anew. As already said, it is not 9-11 which rubs raw, but its failure.


           Exclusion retains integrity, of family, of cabals of common interest shared equally or not, of nations so vast they can only live in mind. Exclusion permits clarity of faith and, thereby, its transmission. Everything we hold dear in culture is reason, somewhere, for wailing God. Jesus in the synoptic gospels is, perhaps in circus mirror, something of an alternative use of exclusion. But just something of. In his confirmation hearings, Suzuki refers to Jesus’ expulsion of demons from a Gentile (e.g., Mark 5:1-20). The cleansed Gentile begs to become a disciple, but Jesus says no:


Go home to your people and tell them what your patron had done for you. (Mark 5:19)


Suzuki pontificates:


Jesus intervenes in something [the exorcism]. But not to garner a disciple. He refuses him, almost as though saying the ex-demoniac’s people are not appropriate for the full message. Jesus must know that if the story takes hold [among those people] it will be transformed in the non-Judaic environment. (Confirmation Hearing, Fifth Session)


This, says Suzuki, instances a faith which leaps beyond the integrity of its own transmission:


[A] faith not to replicate in entirety but to enable transmission of an event which the faith produces. That event, its story, becomes embedded in other traditions and faiths. Faiths, as a whole, are a means of making these events which transmit part of the original in a new bundle. Needing foreign elements for that bundle, other beliefs cannot be disparaged. (Ibid)


Leaping beyond his faith, Jesus enables the birth of something he will never see. Exclusion is ever with us, but we can enable an alternative exclusion, a different sorting of the world, while we yet retain our own. Freedom resides in these alternative sortings, a strange thing, property not of people, but social structure. We can be free while all are trapped. Well, not quite: the act of enabling beyond oneself is a kind of individualized freedom.


           Jesus must know that if the story takes hold it will be transformed. Let Jesus be God, completely. Then he must know his penchant for fable, his unconnected encounters, will not be transmitted in a coherent bundle; that his doctrine will vary, that his acts will come and go, that Jesus will be perpetually discovered. This one and only God must know that his choice of presence will make a kingdom of disparate mansions. Orally transmitted, archived to parchment well after his stay, completeness is not part of this God. Here the medium does share the message, and we find in the Gospels, as created artifact, Cabrales’ fractured monotheism.


           Error is development, error is accommodation to difference, error is partial transmission, the creation of new bundles of faith and hope afar:


Senator Mary Talbot of Nebraska: Oh, stop it. This kind of supposition never ends.


Suzuki: No, it doesn’t, does it?


Talbot: Translations are insidious, tempting unending supposition, sinuously drifting from true design.


Suzuki: Senator, I think God knows all about translations. I think he expects them. I think he wants the story to drift into something new. The stories. And I think the Markian [exorcism] passage hints at this.


Talbot: There can be no community of believers with an attitude like that.


Suzuki: I know. It is essential that many if not most people think concretely of a single faith bundle. If not, the very process I discuss would fail; it relies on an all or nothing attitude among others for the formation of new bundles. This pluralism is not about tolerance. It’s about actively wanting others to think differently than me. (Ibid)


In this present era of instantaneous print with infallible culpability of hard drive, we have lost, expunged the value of error. We have lost the rules of drift, variants secured in new certainties, insulated from one another by vast distances of communication, even if, physically, nearly neighbors. Our present pluralism is intolerant of error. This has always been true; but now there are considerably fewer places to hide. Few today dare embrace the a priori impossibility needed to make a new faith; instead we embrace what already is, hoping for notice, the very process which kills advance through error. Overly stark: congregations vary, but the fluidity of mix is gone, local summit to the impossible too rare.


           Suzuki envisioned a jurisprudence to take us back to the uncertainty of creation, to insulate impossibility from derision, to again create isles separated by distance of unknowing. Mutual understanding is a wailing God; Suzuki would provide relief. Sometimes, it is best not to know, just let be.


           Relief begins with translation, inexact, freeing us from the writer’s pen–free, but not unfettered. Relief begins in translation, where use flees origin, something, something migrating away from origin, migrating into foreign words, flees to escape our certainties:


From the journal of Anthony Pau Cabrales

On the Court

Evening, at home


Yesterday I spoke to Benjamin of the mouths of God on the ceiling of Gaudi’s Cathedral [see Cabrales’ Sagrada Familia journal entry, Section 5, Cabrales’ God, ante]. Blue-gold beauty consuming us in our paralysis. He “Ah, ah”-ed me and walked down the hall.


Today he pops into my outer chambers. My clerks eye him dubiously. I am with them; they are relieved; let the boss respond.






A pause. He looks around, perhaps wondering why he is here, or where here is. Then starts, pulling out a small notebook from pocket unspied.


“Ah. I have this for you. A translation of Rilke’s Duino Elegies. [Stephen Mitchell’s, Vintage International, 1989]. Good thing it’s a translation. Means we don’t know who wrote it. More than usual, that is. First Elegy. I always read beginnings.


Who, if I cried out, would hear me

Among the angles’

hierarchies? And even if one of them

pressed me

suddenly against his heart: I would

be consumed

in that overwhelming existence. For



–He interrupts himself: “See, talks about beauty.” And continues–



beauty is nothing

but the beginning of terror, which we

still are just able to endure,

and we are so awed because it serenely


           to annihilate us. Every angel is



He closes the small book.


“Terrible beauty! Rilke wrote the Elegies underneath a painting of Picasso. He demanded it. Picasso worked for a time in Barcelona. Gaudi’s cathedral is being built in Barcelona. There is connection!”


Silence. My clerks look at one another. They can’t wait for tomorrow’s lunch time gossip session. Better: maybe they’ll be impeachment witnesses.


“If beauty is so terrible, why do we prize that which would destroy us? If beauty is so terrible, why do we strive for its creation? What we emulate? Why we emulate?”–these last in his incorrect syntax, Chinese immigrant voice.


“We emulate God, Ben.”




“I don’t know.” I really don’t.


“If Gaudi is speaking to us, do you think he would place his Cathedral only in Barcelona? Where is his Cathedral, here?”




“Oh. I see the law pass by. I was looking for it when I saw your door open. Must catch it.”


He’s gone.


My clerks supplicate an explanation with their eyes.


“No, no, he’s not psychotic. I spoke of Gaudi’s Cathedral yesterday. As for finding the law, I don’t know where it is either, anymore.”


Their laughter will be subdued tomorrow’s lunch. Their boss, the devout Catholic, has mumbled his crisis of unbelief.


In this evening I shall go outside and look up. And see no stars. They have been erased by our resplendent strivings for success. To dim the uncaring beauty beyond our reach.



Additional entry, several hours after the former.

2 am


I should have gone to bed hours ago; we have a hearing in the day. But I have stood hours this night trying to discern the few stars left to us. As the hours advanced some of the lights about me went out; others dimmed. A few more stars appeared as our efforts finished for the night. Terrible beauty returns as we retreat.


What do we emulate, Ben?




Of stars?


Maybe once. Now, not. We emulate the brightness of one another. To outshine the other is to extinguish the other; it is the only way to be seen. What remains is a brightness hiding the distant.


Oh, we are fools. We think the stars acts of God, so create our own boiling suns, singing each other in the glory of advance. Singe, or worse. This, we say, is beauty’s price. But it is not the catastrophic heat of the close star which is beautiful; it is the distant effect. It is not the twinkle of a single star which commands but the mass of stars. We have it all wrong. Beauty is not enacted; it is by-product. It is use for which the star has no use, use for things not of its realm. The distance-revealed pattern of entities which would consume one another if truly close. And all we do is burn each other in emulation of the close star, in emulation of human stars.


There may be beauty there, close, for some. That is the terror of beauty: it cares not how it is created.


So Gaudi, those blue-gold mouths on your ceiling: a warning to not become what you think you see. To contain the stars is to be destroyed in consuming heat. It is the ceiling which creates those mouths; it is the cathedral of faith which creates the mouths.


I go to bed, turning off my lamp. Tomorrow, once again, I become a sun.


Relief begins with translation, inexact, freeing us from the pen’s fiction of author:


How can these words

convey understanding

when I know not

who wrote them?

Benjamin Suzuki


It is the structure surround which creates nuance to be heard. Nuance gift of the writer, pages thrown beyond context as he sinks into oblivion, a gift of room, of space, to create anew. Lebensraum. Translation comes to link the disparate, to fracture text, to make one house many, the ancient font of creation, incompatible flesh on long dead bones, a trick of sight. So Cabrales encounters 1 Corinthians 13:13 in several forms


For the present, then, three things matter–believing, hoping, and loving. But supreme is loving. (New English Bible)


Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three. But the greatest of these is charity. (King James Version)


But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (American Standard Version)


And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (New International Version)


and chooses the least exact–abide. Not present matter, which will change. Not remain, survivor of whittling life, arbitrary residue, holding out a moment more. Abide, of this moment yet more, outside of time in several presents. And of the two abides, he goes American: love, not charity, charity less than love, charity kinder to the differences between donor and recipient, not encompassing love which knows what recipient must be. Abideth love: ancient America, sure what others should be. Yet Cabrales uses this love to sunder Absolute, to force identity with recipient, to love beyond the love of America, to love as a parent may love, still arrogantly assured, yet unable to act consequent of love. The greatest of these is abiding love: this the finite reply to Singularity, to apocalypse, God pulling Itself from Itself, stumbling directionless in Its grieving mind, to encounter, somewhere, love sufficient to reform, reconstitute, Itself. In translation’s error creation comes.


I see things not there

so others may move

beyond what they see


Utterances of Pau-Pau

Benjamin Suzuki

(in retirement)

           Error colors time past. In all that violence of the old canon resides Micah 4:5. The Most High fractured by the created peoples, each people forward with their god in peace. The Most High contextualized, reified by a people, divinity unique claim of none. Sunder a people–and you have America. Divinity then comes to persons, not a people, God fractured complete, ready for travel to Itself, travel all that’s left. This Cabrales’ response to 9-11, an America that never is where God plunges sideways as well as forward, where isolation is desperate creation, unwanted fertility; when all doors are open, the doors of apocalypse cannot be shut, their only power the closing of hope, of possibility, of otherness. This impossible America of absolute freedom, bones on the ground, don’t look down; keep God aloft, hand stretched towards the next saving link, no time for 9-11’s, on High America’s miracle, God passing through Itself on the trapeze ark, untouched. Ah, but on the ground bones shake with lived failure, and God is there as well.


           There is no solution, Anthony Pau. We contend against what must be, this what we are. Yet in this absurd contention progress lies. The signature of progress those bones on the ground, we cannot ignore them, they will not allow it. They will form a frame, skeleton of no man, monster made of our flights, as human as any success we claim. We are essential absurdity, Anthony Pau, the sinecured of life here only because of others in some whens, in some wheres–but never in this here, no, never that.


           There is no solution, Anthony Pau, and that is your solution. You claim no finality, hope only for a trapeze act. The staying hand, mercy of rights upheld, grace from nowhere, imparting value where perhaps it should not be. Acrobat released from all support, stretched further than should be possible, straining to stay aloft until the hand hold comes, this what Justice is, greatest act than ever is.

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